Compliance

ACFID Members commit to being compliant with all aspects of the Code, and to continuously monitor their compliance. Compliance with the Code of Conduct enhances effective development practice. Non-compliance with the Quality Principles and Commitments set out in the Code of Conduct will reflect negatively on the individual organisation and the sector as a whole.

This section outlines the responsibility to be taken by each Member to ensure compliance with the Code of Conduct.

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Compliance with the Code

Members must be compliant with all applicable aspects of the Code. To achieve compliance, Members will need to understand and apply the two key components of the Code:

  • The ACFID Code of Conduct: the 9 Principles and 32 Commitments that lay out the standard of practice to which ACFID Members commit.
  • The Quality Assurance Framework: a separate but linked document that details the Compliance Indicators, Verifiers and Good Practice Indicators for each of the Principles and Commitments of the Code.

Compliance with the Commitments is assessed against the Compliance Indicators as detailed in the Quality Assurance Framework (QAF). Each of the Compliance Indicators has one or more compliance Verifiers. Verifiers are the description of evidence that would substantiate compliance with the Indicator. To demonstrate compliance, Members will have the Verifiers in place, commensurate with the size and nature of their work.

Satisfaction of all Compliance Indicators is necessary to achieve compliance with the Code. To be compliant with the Code, ACFID Members will have the required policies, processes, guidelines and documentation in place appropriate to the size and nature of the organisation and its work. They will also ensure that their policies, processes and guidelines are implemented and subject to regular review.

Responsibility for compliance with the Code rests primarily with ACFID Members who self-assess against the Compliance Indicators. The governing body of each ACFID Member has primary responsibility for verifying compliance with all Compliance Indicators. ACFID undertakes relatively limited external verification in line with this principle of self-regulation.

The Code applies to ACFID Members and their international development and humanitarian programs. As signatories to the Code, ACFID Members certify that all parts of their organisation that are associated with international development and humanitarian initiatives operate in a manner that is compliant with the Code. It should be noted, however, that Code commitments relating to financial reporting apply to the entire legal entity of the ACFID Member.

Members are expected to use all reasonable efforts to support their implementing partners to operate in a manner consistent with the Code of Conduct when delivering aspects of a Member-supported initiative. There are some requirements which Members must extend to partners through MOUs or similar including those relating to child safeguarding, separation of development and non-development activity, financial wrongdoing and complaints handling. These requirements are clearly articulated in the relevant Compliance Indicators and Verifiers. 

Assessment of Compliance

Compliance with the Code is assured through a suite of mechanisms by which ACFID Members are bound. These compliance mechanisms are:

Application for ACFID Membership

  • On application, organisations must complete the Code Self-Assessment process and submit the organisational documentation requested to demonstrate their compliance.
  • On application, the organisation must provide copies of the additional documents that demonstrate membership eligibility and compliance as set out in the Membership Application Guidelines.
  • Organisations must submit their application within 12 months of lodging their initial application.
  • Organisations are entitled to use the ACFID Member logo after they have been approved as interim Members by the ACFID Board

Periodic Assessment

  • A minimum of one in every three years (as notified by ACFID), Members complete a Code Self-Assessment (CSA) and submit requested documents that verify their compliance with selected Compliance Indicators.
    • The CSA includes a declaration of compliance with the Code from the Member’s governing body. ACFID reviews Members’ self-assessment and supporting documentation
    • The CSA process must be completed within 5 months of the conclusion of the Member’s financial year.
    • Members must promptly respond to ACFID regarding any reasonable requests for clarification or additional information.
    • Members must comply with any resulting remedial actions.

 

  • Members’ governing bodies submit their annual and financial reports to ACFID each year. These reports are assessed one in every three years at the same time as the CSA through the Annual Reporting Assessment Process.
    • Annual reports and financial statements (if not included in the annual report) must be provided to ACFID within 5 months of the Member’s financial year end.
    • Members must promptly respond to ACFID regarding any reasonable requests for clarification or additional information.
    • Members must comply with any resulting remedial actions.

 

  • On the years that Members are not required to complete a CSA, they must complete an exceptions report, which notes any exceptions to compliance that occurred during the previous year, and outlines actions undertaken to ensure that compliance is met.
    • The exceptions report must be provided to ACFID within 5 months of the Member’s financial year end.

Spot checks

  • ACFID’s ongoing assessment of risk identifies any areas of potential non-compliance that may be detrimental to the interests of ACFID, its Membership or the Code.
  • ACFID undertakes spot checks of compliance in these areas as needed
  • This process includes checks of websites undertaken during emergency appeals.
  • Members must comply with requests for additional information to verify compliance as a result of these checks.
  • Members must comply with any resulting remedial actions.

Non- compliance

In the event of non-compliance, the Member must submit a plan that outlines how they will become compliant within a time frame of up to twelve months, or sooner if the area of non-compliance is considered higher risk. The Member must re-submit any required documentation at the end of that period. The onus is on the Member to submit supporting documentation and ensure compliance within that period. If a Member does not achieve compliance within that period, a set of sanctions may be implemented. These sanctions extend to the suspension and revocation of Code signatory status.

Members will notify ACFID if they become aware of major transgressions against the Code in their own organisation or make a complaint to the Code of Conduct Committee of major transgressions by other Members.

ACFID will publicise any suspension or revocation of signatory status.

Complaints

The ACFID Code of Conduct offers a mechanism to address concerns relating to signatory organisations’ conduct. 

The current complaints handling process has 2 tiers:

  • complaints handling by signatory organisations themselves; and
  • escalation of the complaint to the Code of Conduct Committee.

This complaint-handling process is essential to the external credibility of any self-regulatory code of practice.  The ACFID Code of Conduct Committee is the independent body charged with overseeing the Code. Note that these are not court processes and no party has the right to make oral submissions, to a hearing or to legal representation nor do the rules of evidence apply.

Here is some guidance as to how the Code of Conduct Committee will approach different aspects of the complaints process:

Awareness and accessibility for stakeholders

The Code’s credibility requires that stakeholders in Australia and other countries are aware of and able to readily access the complaints process.

  1. ACFID will make the points of access to the complaints process prominent on the ACFID website and publicise it prominently in materials for public information (e.g. Annual Report, brochures).
  2. ACFID will make every reasonable effort to ensure that translation services are available for those of non-English speaking backgrounds who wish to lodge complaints.
  3. ACFID will ensure that the complaints process is conducted with a minimum of formality and technicality.

Scope of complaints process

The Code of Conduct Committee will only consider complaints relating to breaches of the ACFID Code of Conduct and only where the Code Complaints process is the most appropriate way to handle the matter.

  1. Anonymous complaints will not be accepted by the Code of Conduct Committee.
  2. In general, the Code of Conduct Committee will only accept complaints in writing where the complainant is willing for the signatory organisation to be aware of their identity.  The identity and other information relating to the complainant may be kept confidential in exceptional circumstances where the complainant identifies themselves as being at risk if their identity is revealed.
  3. The Code of Conduct Committee will refer a complaint to the internal complaints handling process of the signatory organisation against which the complaint has been made.  Where it is not appropriate to refer the complainant to internal complaints handling process, the Code of Conduct Committee may take the complaint as an own Inquiry,
  4. Where there are more appropriate avenues for dealing with a complaint, (e.g. complaints relating to alleged breaches of Australian law, such as: employment of staff, third party providers, taxation, charities legislation in each state) the complaint will not be investigated by the Code of Conduct Committee.
  5. Wherever the Code of Conduct Committee chooses not to investigate a matter, the complainant will be promptly notified and where appropriate, provided with some advice as to what alternative avenues for dealing with the complaint may be open to the complainant.
  6. The Code of Conduct Committee may initiate its own Inquiry into an issue which may have sector wide significance, which may lead to a complaint against a signatory organisation or when a complainant has a genuine cause to believe they may be at risk from raising a complaint themselves through a signatory organisation’s own complaints handling process. An Inquiry can also be forwarded to the Committee by ACFID’s Board, or the CEO or Chairperson of a signatory organisation.
  7. The Code of Conduct Committee may continue to investigate a complaint against a signatory organisation that resigns as a signatory organisation during the complaints handling process.

Independence of process and decision-makers

The Code of Conduct complaints process will be conducted independently of ACFID governance bodies and signatory organisations.

  1. ACIFD’s Code of Conduct Committee will be constituted independently of the ACFID Council and Board and the Committee investigations and deliberations will be conducted separately and confidentially.
  2. Members of the Code of Conduct Committee will avoid any conflict of interest arising in the course of their consideration of any complaint and will advise the Chair at the earliest practical opportunity if any potential conflict of interest arises.  If the potential conflict involves the Chair, she or he will advise the members of the Committee and if necessary, the Deputy Chair will oversee the handling of the complaint.
  3. ACFID will ensure that adequate insurances are in place to avoid personal liability by ACFID office-bearers, committee members and their agents.

Fairness

The ACFID Code of Conduct complaints process will be fair and have regard to the principles of natural justice.

  1. The Code of Conduct Committee will be responsible for the management of the complaint in a fair way including the choice of those involved in the investigation, the information gathered and the extent of the investigation.
  2. The ACFID Executive Committee will appoint independent Appeals Officers (nominated by the Code of Conduct Committee) for terms of three years, who will be responsible for hearing appeals against the outcome of a complaint.
  3. At any time during the Complaint Process, the Chair may consult with people with particular skill or expertise to provide advice as needed on the complaint being investigated.
  4. The complaints process will permit all parties reasonable opportunity to provide any information they believe will assist the investigation and parties will be given an opportunity to respond to information provided by the other party.
  5. The Code of Conduct Committee will keep the parties informed as to progress of the investigation and any consideration of the matter.
  6. Once the investigation report has been presented to the Code of Conduct Committee, the discussion of the merits of the matter will be confined to Code of Conduct Committee members (excluding any person directly involved in the investigation). The decision of the Code of Conduct Committee will be by majority vote.
  7. If either of the parties is not satisfied with the outcome of a Code of Conduct Committee investigation, they may lodge an appeal with the Code of Conduct Appeals Officers. Appeals may only be submitted in cases where ACFID itself was the complainant in the first instance or where the Code of Conduct Committee had initiated its own inquiry.  If a conflict arises with respect to an Appeals Officer, another Appeals Officer may be temporarily appointed for the particular complaint.  Once the Appeals Officer has made a decision, there are no further avenues of appeal.

Transparency of process

Transparent and open complaints processes help to promote confidence in the Code of Conduct and its self-regulatory effectiveness.

  1. The ACFID Code of Conduct Committee complaints handling process will be published on its website.
  2. Once the complaint process has been completed, complainants and signatory organisations will be entitled to an explanation of the reasons for the decision.

Confidentiality for the parties

The Code of Conduct Committee complaints process will respect the privacy and confidentiality to which the parties are entitled under the Privacy Act.

  1. At all stages of the complaints process, the complaint will be treated as strictly confidential unless and until the complaint has been determined to be a notifiable breach by the Code of Conduct Committee and the appeal process has been exhausted.
  2. The investigation of complaints will take into account the following key principles from the Privacy Act:
    • Information will only be collected in so far as it is necessary and lawful;
    • Information will only be used for the purposes for which it is collected unless consent is obtained from the signatory organisation under investigation; and
    • Information will only be disclosed with the agreement of the signatory organisation under investigation or where necessary to enforce the provisions of the ACFID Code of Conduct.
  3. At any stage of the process, the Code of Conduct Committee may advise the ACFID CEO and/or President or make public any issues arising from a complaint that they believe may have sector wide significance.
  4. Where the Code of Conduct Committee advises the CEO of issues arising from a complaint, individual signatory organisations will not be identified, unless the Committee has already made a decision to name the signatory organisation. 

Corrective Action

The primary focus for the Code of Conduct Committee where signatory organisations have breached the Code will be working with affected signatory organisations to improve standards and reduce the risk of recurrence.

Where the breach is more serious, or the signatory organisation has not responded appropriately, the Code of Conduct Committee may consider disciplinary action.

The Code of Conduct Committee’s response to a breach will include:

  1. Where a breach has occurred, the Code of Conduct Committee will attempt to settle a course of corrective and remedial action with the signatory organisation (including through mediation or conciliation).
  2. Consistent with this principle, the Code of Conduct Committee will work with the signatory organisation to ensure that it has put in place remedial measures to minimise the risk of the breach recurring.  If necessary, the Code of Conduct Committee may require the signatory organisation to put in place those measures, and may require the signatory organisation to provide monitoring reports as to progress of implementation.
  3. If the complainant has suffered a loss as a result of a breach, the Code of Conduct Committee will look to be satisfied that the signatory organisation has provided appropriate redress.  In the first instance, this will be by negotiation, however if necessary, the Code of Conduct Committee may require the signatory organisation to provide appropriate redress.
  4. In the interests of transparency, accountability and long-term public confidence in the sector, and as appropriate to the breach that has occurred, the Code of Conduct Committee may require the signatory organisation to provide information to some or all of its donors, on its website or in its Annual Report.
  5. Where considered necessary, the Code of Conduct Committee may choose to notify the facts of the breach to the ACFID Board or itself make public (through media release and/or the ACFID website or Annual Report) the relevant facts of the breach and/or the name of the signatory organisation.
  6. Where the signatory organisation is accredited with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Code of Conduct Committee may notify DFAT of the breach.
  7. Where the breach is sufficiently serious and/or the Signatory Organisation’s response has been inadequate, the Code of Conduct Committee may suspend (for up to one year) or revoke the signatory organisation’s status as a signatory to the ACFID Code of Conduct.  Where a decision to suspend or revoke is taken, the signatory organisation will be provided with written advice of the decision and the terms of the disciplinary action.
  8. A signatory organisation that has had its status revoked must re-apply to become a signatory, if it so wishes, not earlier than one year after the revocation.

Efficiency

It is in the interests of all stakeholders that the Code of Conduct complaints process is handled as efficiently as practicable - both in relation to time and cost.

  1. The Code of Conduct Committee complaints processes will provide the parties with reasonable expectation of milestones for completion of each stage – noting that the time required may differ for each investigation.
  2. The Code of Conduct Committee will be responsible for monitoring adherence to timelines and putting in place remedial action when necessary.